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What to look for when buying a house: 15 tips from estate agents

Real estate agents share invaluable advice on what to look for when buying a house, a daunting experience especially when you’re a first-time home buyer.

What to look for when buying a house

Article summary

  • Make a list of must-haves before you go house hunting.
  • Look for hidden defects.
  • Stay open-minded. Look for the potential in your dream home that might not be obvious when you first see it.

Buying a new home can be daunting so to help you in your search, we’ve gathered tips from real estate agents, and listed our top 15 things to look for when house hunting.

1. Hidden defects
First impressions are lasting ones. A seller is going to do their utmost to make a memorable impact to attract the best offer. Look for little defects that might have been disguised by a fresh coat of paint.

2. Beyond the clutter
People have different ideas about décor. Look beyond the clutter, colours, cupboards and carpets that might not be to your liking and be open to hidden potential.

3. Price right
Not too high and not too low – do your research into selling prices for the area so that you have a better chance of having your offer accepted. South Africa’s leading home loan comparison service offers a range of home loan calculators to help you establish what you can afford.

4. Use a home loan comparison service
Work out what you can afford to pay on a bond and get the best deal from a bank by using a home loan comparison service. If you can get prequalified for a home loan, all the better. That way you know your credit score, and what you can realistically afford, before you put in an offer on a home.

5. Find a reputable estate agent
The right estate agent will help you find the right house in the right area at the right price for you.

6. Investigate the area
Get a feel for the neighbourhood, day and night, and check on security with the local police station. If you’re buying anything but a freestanding home, high noise levels and bad views should be a deterrent.

7. It’s not inside…
Don’t forget to check the state and composition of the roof.

8. Feel it
Get a sense of the indoor temperature to work out how hot or cold the home will be, depending on the season. It could influence your electricity bill.

9. Look into everything
Don’t be afraid to open cupboards, lift loose carpets, look underneath bathroom and kitchen sinks, flush toilets, flick switches and open and close windows and doors to check the state of shelving, flooring, plumbing and general functionality.

10. Inspect it
If you’re really keen on buying a particular property insist on a report following a professional home inspection. This should highlight any physical defects such as leaks, faulty geysers or noteworthy wall cracks. A good home inspection company will also establish whether all structures on the property are legal and have been approved by the local authority.

11. Fibre-optic cable
Driven by the rising demand for higher bandwidth and faster-speed connections, fibre-optic transmission is becoming more and more common in modern homes – but it’s still worth enquiring after it when considering a new home as not all suburbs in South Africa are yet fitted with the technology.

12. Solar panels
Solar panels are a hefty upfront investment so buying a house with them already installed is a bonus for those buyers seeking an efficient home capable of generating its own energy. If the panels are new technology, show significant savings and are aesthetically acceptable, they may very well boost the value of a property. However, be wary of getting roped into a contract for panels that comes with the sale of a house. An agreement that ties prospective owners into old technology is onerous and could well affect the value of a property in a negative way.

13. A smart security alarm
With safety top of mind for South African homebuyers, a smart security system can add significantly to the attraction of a potential home. These systems allow homeowners to arm, disarm, configure and control their system from their smartphone or tablet using a simple app. They then receive email alerts, push notifications or even a text when the alarm is triggered. Many smart home alarm kits can also be extended to include additional accessories, such as a power switch to remotely turn on or off home appliances, a PIR camera to view images of the inside of your home, or a smart lock to remotely gain access to the property. It is essential to question the seller or estate agent on the security system installed in the house – a smart system is top of the security range and definitely a great add-on for prospective buyers.

14. Sensor technology
Property damage, including theft, accounts for 97% of all home insurance claims. Smart home sensors are more than just a luxury, enabling you to close the shutters without getting out of bed. They can significantly protect a home and its occupants. The sensor technologies most coveted by homebuyers include fire and carbon monoxide detectors, leak and moisture sensors, motion sensors, and a Wi-Fi connected smart garage door. Door and window sensors that let you know when people are entering and leaving your home, and can even turn lights on and off as doors are opened and closed, are also highly sought after as a first line of defence.

15. A smart thermostat
Not only are smart thermostats cool, but they’ll also help you save money by monitoring the temperature and humidity inside and outside your new home. A smart thermostat gives you control over the heating and cooling in your home – from any location. When you are in and out of your house, its temperature also changes and a smart thermostat can adjust this based on your behaviour and room usage. The best thermostats adjust the temperature on a room-by-room basis, allowing you to maintain your ideal temperature when you are in the room and default to an energy-saving mode when you leave it. Applying cognitive technology to these sensors is paving the way for a home that thinks and knows you and your temperature preferences.

Use South Africa’s leading home loan comparison service, ooba home loans, to prequalify you, to work out what a bank might be prepared to grant you in terms of a bond. Click here to access ooba home loans’ free, online prequalification tool, the ooba Bond Indicator. Then, when you’re ready to buy, you can apply for a home loan with ooba home loans.

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